New Frontier Service from CVG – SALE FARES!

Frontier Airlines is launching non-stop service from Cincinnati to 5 cities: Phoenix, Las Vegas, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale and Dallas.

TODAY ONLY they are offering sale fares on those routes as low as $15 each way.  You must book before midnight tonight and travel is valid Oct 26 through Nov 5 on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Sunday only (except Nov 2).  You can also fly Oct 26-Dec 17 on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday only (except Nov 21-Dec 1)

That’s not too restrictive or confusing, is it?

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My birthday is Nov 4 and I was seriously considering flying to Vegas for just one night, if I could get 2 tickets for $30 roundtrip.  Yeah right.  I really couldn’t find any fares that worked for me.  And Frontier’s website is terribly buggy.

Here are a few fares I did find that were decent.  Not $30 roundtrip, but decent.

Las Vegas:

  • Oct 26-Nov 2 $103 RT
  •  Nov 12-19 $98 RT
  •  Dec 3 – 10 $98 RT
  •  Dec 10-17 $98 RT

Ft. Lauderdale:

  • Dec 9 -16 $58 RT

Phoenix:

  • Oct 28 -30 $103 RT
  • Nov 11-19 $98 RT
  • Dec 6-19 $98 RT
  • Dec 13-17 $98 RT

If you have kids in school, most of those trips won’t work for you and all of those Vegas dates are at least a week.  (I don’t think I could stay in Vegas for a week! 2-3 days max) But if you are child-free and want to escape to Phoenix for a week in early December, $98 roundtrip is not bad at all.

Better hurry and jump on these though.  I’m sure they won’t last.  And good luck with Frontier’s website!

 

New SPG Game!

Just a quick post to let you know about a new Starwood Preferred Guest online game.  It’s called Tap Into Luxury, and you can win free hotel nights, SPG points, iTunes gift cards or Ticketmaster ConcertCash.

SPG offered a similar game last year.  It’s easy to do and only takes a couple minutes of your time each day.  Totally worth it, in my opinion, to possibly win a free night stay!

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You can spin twice each day, and even if you don’t win, you will be entered into the Grand Prize drawing for 250,000 SPG points! (I would LOVE to win that!)

The daily prizes offered are:

  • One night at a participating Category 1-5 hotel (195 available)
  • 500, 1,000 or 5,000 Starpoints (390 available)
  • $50 iTunes Gift Card (156 available)
  • $50 Ticketmaster Concert Cash (975 available)

They have a lot of Ticketmaster Concert Cash available.  Probably not the best prize because you will most likely end up spending additional money on that one.

The game runs until Sept 30, 2014.  Good luck! And let me know if you win!

 

 

Trip Report: Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand Trip Reports

Horrible start

We were still dealing with a sick child.  Parker was absolutely miserable and by the time we were ready to head to the airport to catch our 7:50pm flight, Parker was absolutely exhausted and ready to go to bed.  He was a complete zombie at the airport, literally sleep walking through security and to our gate.

Before leaving home, I read many Trip Advisor posts and other travel blogs about taking taxis in Bangkok and to always insist they use the meter.   We went to the taxi stand at the airport to get a taxi and the driver told us it was something like 500 Thai baht (I no longer remember the exact amount) to get to the Marriott Sukhumvit.  We argued with him for a while about using the meter and he finally agreed.  I knew from looking at Google maps that the airport was about 40 minutes away.  It took us well over an hour to get there and the final meter price was about 125 baht Higher than what he quoted us at the airport.  He purposely took the long way around to get the higher fare because we insisted on the meter.  OK.  You got me.  At that point I really didn’t care because I had a sick baby sleeping on my lap and all I wanted to do was get to our room and go to bed. (it was now almost 10pm)

The Bangkok Marriott Sukhumvit was such a welcome sight! A Beautiful hotel (in a rather odd location) and very friendly staff.  They immediately brought Parker a cool towel and took our bags to our room.  They knew we needed to get him to bed as soon as possible and the check-in process only took about 3 minutes.

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I think I will write a separate blog entry about the Bangkok Marriott Sukhumvit because it was my favorite hotel of the entire trip.

Parker got a good night’s sleep and on our first morning we went outside to find a taxi to take us to the Grand Palace.  The taxi driver said he could not drive near the Grand Palace because of the protests and it would take too long to go around.  He suggested we take the boat instead.  He said he would take us to the pier for 100 baht (about $3) and I knew the public boat was only 20baht (80 cents) so it sounded like a good deal.  As cab drivers usually do, he tried to get us to stop into a tailor shop for 10 minutes and he would cut the fare in half.  He kept on about that for the whole ride and we just kept saying “No no no”

When we got near the river, he drove down a side road toward a dock, but it did not look like a public ferry dock.   I kept asking him if this was the public ferry and he kept saying yes.  It wasn’t.  It was a private boat operator (more kickbacks for the driver for bringing people there I guess) who wanted 1500 baht for a 1 hour ride.  They refused to tell us where the public ferry dock was but after some chatting with a shop owner down the road, we found out it was only about a block farther down.

I felt like a total travel newbie, getting taken by 2 cab drivers in less than 24 hours.  But the 2nd one was totally not a big deal and actually saved me money from taking a cab the entire distance.  The first one was worse because of Parker being sick, but again, not a “trip ruining” experience by any means.  Travel is an adventure and you always have to be willing to learn as you go along.

Once we got to the Grand Palace, we walked around for about an hour in 100 degree heat. Parker was a good sport about it and was starting to feel much better.  Although the heat there will take anybody down.  I wouldn’t say the Grand Palace is a great place for kids unless they are really into Thai temple architecture.  Once I started to get bored, I knew Parker would be more than ready to leave.

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Family selfie at The Grand Palace

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I love those trees!

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Tourist! But at least he’s feeling better!

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Mommy it’s so hot. Can we please go back to the pool?

Since it was so beastly hot, we committed another Thailand Travel Faux Pas and caught a taxi right outside the Grand Palace.  “Oh don’t ever do that! They will rip you off.  You can get one cheaper if you walk a couple blocks down the street!”  Forget it! It was 100 degrees and the taxi had his A/C blasting.  Best 350 baht I spent on the whole trip!  “WHAT?? I would never pay more than 100 baht for a ride to ANYWHERE in Thailand.” Whatever.  After a while I get sick of hearing that.  In general, the cab fares over there were much cheaper than you would pay in the States. And everything is relative.  If I think it’s worth it to spend $10 on a taxi right in front of me, rather than walk another 10 minutes in ungodly heat to save $3, then it’s money well spent.  As you know, the same is true for how you use your miles and points.  They are worth what they are worth TO YOU.  Not how much some blogger values them by doing complicated math equations.

We spent that afternoon in the pool at the Marriott and even ordered lunch poolside!

After swimming and a short nap, Parker was ready to go explore so we took the BTS (train) to the ferry dock and headed to Asiatique.  Asiatique is Thai for “tourist trap”, but kids love it.  They have lots of shops and restaurants and of course, a giant ferris wheel.  Does every major city have a giant ferris wheel now?

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Parker found a guy making balloon animals and he made him this most awesome Minion balloon!

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When we left Asiatique, we took the public ferry back to the dock to catch the BTS train. When we got to the top of the escalator, the security guard said that we could not bring the Minion balloon on the train!  What the? I told Matthew I was going to noballoonsgo back down and stuff the Minion in my bag and then come through again.  The security guard probably heard me say this and was conveniently not there when we came back up. It’s a crazy rule, but I guess there is a reason for it.  I’m glad I didn’t argue with the guard too much because apparently in 2012 an Irish passenger was badly beaten by BTS security guards for trying to bring (a big bouquet of ) balloons on a BTS train.

We decided to spend Friday indoors to beat the heat.  We went to some of the big shopping malls that honestly were not much different than the malls at home.  Mostly high-end stores.  We did make our way over to MBK which was a bit different.  Knock-off haven.  The most popular knock-offs in Bangkok were Polo and Ray Ban.  We bought some “Polo” shirts and shorts for Matthew and Parker and I got a pair of “Ray Bans” for about $3 that broke after about a week.

Terminal 21 was probably my favorite mall.  Each floor is themed like a different country, Japan, England, France, USA etc.  Very neat concept and they had some great restaurants and interesting bathrooms.

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Saturday morning we went to the weekend market known as Chatuchuk Market.  I am not a fan of flea markets in general, and this was no exception.  There was nothing new or unique there that I couldn’t have bought at MBK.  I read a lot of travel reviews about Chatuchuk and how much kids would enjoy it.  Parker didnt.  He was hot and still sick and there really wasn’t much there of interest to him.  Plus it gets so crowded! We only stayed for about an hour and then took the BTS back to Taksin pier to catch the ferry to Wat Arun.  If you get off the ferry at Ta Tien, you can catch another ferry to take you across the river for 20baht.

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Parker enjoyed climbing the steep stairs at Wat Arun

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Very steep.

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I made it to the top!

Before heading over to Wat Po, we found a vendor on the street with a nice assortment of food.  I should mention, we had been having a very hard time getting Parker to eat.  A very hard time.  It’s not that he just wouldn’t eat Thai food, he wouldn’t even eat Western food (McDonald’s) because he said it tasted different.  He got better as the trip went on, but in the beginning he ate very little.  It could have been because he was sick, so I can’t write him off as a picky travel eater….yet.

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It all looked delicious to me!

I got a few things that looked like chicken nuggets and hoped that Parker would eat them.  He did eat a few bites, but then started spitting it out.

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My picky eater

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Wat Po

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Reclining Buddha

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Shoes off….shoes on

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On our last night, I had to go to Khao San Road.  Backpacker paradise that I first read about 15 years ago and was always a “Bucket List” destination for me.  I’m not 25 anymore, but I still had to check it out.  It’s not easy to get to because it’s not serviced by the BTS.  We took the ferry there, which was easy, and took a cab back to the hotel.  It wasn’t as “cool” as it was in my daydreams, but I’m still glad I went.

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Khao San Rd

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Parker loved the “sawasdee” Ronald McDonald. Even though he didn’t care for his food.

I think Parker enjoyed Bangkok.  He loved saying “hello” and “thank you” in Thai.  He played with Thai children in the parks and loved all the attention he got from the adults.  They love little blonde-haired faring babies!

He loves public transportation and liked buying his own tickets on the BTS and trying to figure out which train we needed to take by looking at the maps.

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Is our train coming? That tall building in the background is the Bangkok Marriott Sukhumvit

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People on the Bangkok trains are very polite. They always gave up their seat to Parker and kept their bags in their laps. And there’s always that one guy on the train….

Next up: Khao Lak

I did it! My first Business card!

Finally!

I have long been jealous of the bloggers and travel hackers who get so many extra miles and points by getting business cards.  Unfortunately, stay at home moms do not qualify as “business owners” because nobody actually pays us for our services.  (hmmmpf)

Several years ago, I was a Realtor and could have easily gotten multiple business cards for my real estate business.  But I was not into this game then and let my license expire back in 2007.

So, here I sit, letting millions of miles pass me by because I do not have a business.  But do I?

I live in a subdivision that has a community clubhouse that residents can rent out for parties and meetings.  I am in charge of renting the clubhouse and BUYING SUPPLIES for it.  I am paid a modest fee for every party that I book.  A modest fee, yet still a fee.  I am sent a 1099 tax form every year by the HOA and I have to pay taxes on that modest money that I earn.  Do I have a business?  I thought I might.  So a couple years ago, I applied for a Chase Ink card using that business description.  I was denied.  That broke me.  I was scared of Chase then and stayed away from them until my recent Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  Not sure what went wrong with the Ink card.  Maybe they didn’t like the fact that I only made about $2,500 a year and spent less than $100 a month on supplies.

Gatekeeper Paranormal

 

For several months now, I have been getting letters from American Express OPEN Business credit card, addressed to Gatekeeper Paranormal.  I have no idea how they got our name and my address linked to it.  But they did.  We do not charge a fee for our services so we are a “non-profit”,  but have not registered as such because that costs money and if we don’t make money, we don’t have money.

Recently we started working with Bobby Mackey’s Music World.  This has given us a good deal of exposure and as such we have started investing more in our “business”.  Ordering t-shirts and banners, buying new equipment and vendor tables at conventions.  Unless we get our own “Ghost Hunters” type TV show, we are not going to make much money doing this BUT we are making a small amount and still putting out money and providing a service.

The American Express OPEN card was offering me 50,000 Membership Rewards points for spending $5,000 in 3 months AND an additional 25,000 points for spending another $5,000 in the same 3 months.  That’s A LOT of spend.  Especially considering I want to apply for new Marriott Premier VISA cards this month.

I really need some Delta miles though! I want to go to Europe next summer (!) in business class and I only have 310,000 SkyMiles.  (I need 375,000.  which is ridiculous. but it is what it is)  So I started looking at some other business card offers this morning and saw that the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business card was offering 50,000 miles for spending only $1,000 in the first 3 months!  Wow.  If I had to, I could BUY the remaining 15,000 SkyMiles for about $500.  But hopefully I can manufacture some spending in the next month to lower that significantly.

I was nervous, but I applied for the card using Gatekeeper Paranormal information.  It was quite painless actually.  They asked what kind of business and I marked “other”.  They asked my annual income and provided a drop down box where the first option was “$0-$49,999”.  OK.  That’s honest.

60 seconds later:

first biz card

 

Wow.  I was over the moon.  This opens up a whole new world for me!

And that brings me to this blog.  Most of the BIG guy bloggers have affiliate links for credit cards and make a nice little commission every time somebody clicks on one and is approved.  (I just gave Million Mile Secrets some money this morning.  You’re welcome.)

I do not have any such links and I honestly have no idea how to go about getting them.  Part of me doesn’t want to pimp credit cards all the time and another part of me doesn’t want the banks controlling (or trying to control) my content.   But the opportunity exists that I could get affiliate links.  And of course I want to make money.  So even if I don’t have any now, I could apply for a business card for this blog with the intention of getting paid for advertising credit cards.  I could.  But should I?

So apparently I have 3 businesses that technically should each be eligible for their own business credit card.  Will I do that? I doubt it.  But I will be exploring the business side of this game a bit more now.  I’m still very conservative, both in manufactured spend and credit card churning in general.

Do you have any business credit cards?  Have you tapped that well yet?

I heart you American Express.  Thank you.

American Express Gift Cards

Just a quick post so you know I’m still alive and to share my recent experiment.

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I have heard of people buying American Express gift cards online through cash back portals, but I had never done it myself until last month.  I tested the waters by buying a $200 gift card using the AMEX Sync offer of $10 back on the purchase of AMEX gift cards.  I went through BeFrugal (<that is my link)  and also earned $5 cash back.

I signed up for a 3 month trial of free shipping from American Express, but I still had to pay the $3.95 purchase fee. I paid $203.95 for the gift card.  I was almost immediately issued a $10 credit on my American Express statement and I have $5 pending at BeFrugal.  I liquidated the card via Amazon Payments because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of trying to buy gift cards with it.  (and spending more money to do so) So…after my credits, I paid $188.95 for a $200 gift card.  Not bad.

A couple days ago, I got a bit braver and went for a $1,000 AMEX gift card.  I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which wasn’t the best decision.  I’m trying to build Delta points to burn on a trip to Europe next year and those Ultimate Rewards points won’t help me do that.  But, nevertheless, I did it.  I paid $1003.95 for the card and used my free shipping.

For the $1,000 gift card, I earned $27.50 cash back via BeFrugal. I will use this AMEX gift card to purchase 2 $500 VISA gift cards at Walmart and load them to Bluebird.  Stay tuned for an update or a new post to see how that goes.  I hope to do that today or tomorrow.

I will pay $4.94 for each VISA gift card.  Plus the $3.95 purchase fee on the AMEX card.  I have spent $13.83 in fees BUT I am getting $27.50 cash back.  I am $13.67 ahead of the game.

I just made $27.34. Why didn’t I start doing this years ago?

As long as I do not have any hassles buying VISA gift cards with the AMEX gift cards, this is going to be my “new thing”.

Do you buy American Express gift cards online through shopping portals?  Let me know in the comments!  I would love to hear your experience.

Of course none of this is helping me meet my minimum spend on the last Citi Executive card.  (DO NOT use Citi cards to buy American Express gift cards or you will be charged a cash advance fee!) I’m still a couple thousand short on that minimum spend, but I have until Sept 26, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

I am going to write more.  I am going to write more.

I keep telling myself that.  And I will.  Now that Parker has started 1st grade, I have about 8 hours of “free” time every day.  I have a lot going on.  My paranormal group Gatekeeper Paranormal just started doing tours of Bobby Mackey’s Music World, so I am busy scheduling and conducting those.  I am also trying to plan our spring break 2015 trip to Disney World.  And a trip to Europe next summer.

I also plan to apply for a few cards at the end of this month so I need to sort out which ones are the best.  I know for sure we will each be getting a Marriott Premier Rewards card (not my link) offering 70,000 points after spending  $2,000 in 3 months.

I’m also working on the rest of my trip reports from Thailand! It really was an incredible trip and I want to share all the details!

**UPDATE** I just returned home from Walmart where I purchased two “Birthday Candle” VISA gift cards for $495 each – using the $1000 Amex Gift Card.  I then loaded the VISA gift cards to Bluebird with no problems!

Possible Regret and A Couple Good Bonuses

I hope I don’t regret this

Until midnight last night, you could transfer SPG points to American Airlines or US Airways and receive a 20% bonus.  This was on top of the 25% bonus you already get for transferring SPG points to airlines.  I have just over 40,000 points, so I could have turned those into 58,000 AAdvantage miles.  (or Dividend Miles)

Conventional Wisdom in this game tells you not to transfer miles unless you have immediate plans to use them.  I don’t.  Plus I am pretty flush with AAdvantage Miles and Dividend Miles right now thanks to 3 Citi Executive cards and Matthew’s recent bump in business travel.  I have more than enough for my planned trip to Australia (in BUSINESS class) in 2016.  But this was a heck of an offer to pass up and one that may not return for some time.

I have lots of hotel points in other programs, so I don’t necessarily NEED SPG points for hotels; although you can sometimes find some Great Redemptions.

I would also probably not transfer the points to any other airline.  Except maybe Delta if I needed some points to redeem some of their ridiculously over-priced awards.

Too late now to do anything about it.  It’s just something I decided to think about this morning.  I will probably end up using my SPG points to stay at the Westin in Whistler, which is why I got the card in the first place.

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The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler

Rooms at the Westin Whistler are 16,000 SPG points per night during Christmas break and most of ski season, but you can find rooms for 9,000 points per night in late ski season.  As long as I have my SPG American Express card open, I will get the 5th night free when I book 4 on points.  So, I still need to earn 24,000 points to get enough points.  SPG points aren’t easy to earn, but if I concentrate some MS on the card over the next year, I should be able to do it.  (then I will watch for the inevitable devaluation)

A Couple Good Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses

Right now, Chase is offering the United Explorer card with an increased sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $2,000 in 3 months.  I would love to get this one, but Matthew and I just canceled our previous United Explorer cards in July of 2013.  The wait time for churning Chase cards is generally 24 months.  So hopefully next summer they will offer a similar bonus.  But if you have not had a Chase United Explorer card in the past 2 years-go for it!

Chase is also offering the Marriott Rewards Premier VISA card with an increased sign up bonus of 70,000 points PLUS 1 Free night at a category 1-4 hotel after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months.

Matthew and I will definitely be signing up for the Marriott card.  We both just canceled the basic Chase Marriott Rewards card, but this Premier card is a different product so we are eligible for the sign-up bonus even though it has not been 24 months.

Incidentally, I do not earn any commissions if you use the links above.  Those are just public links that I copied and pasted.

Happy Travels!